I hope you are all doing well during this difficult time. My name is Sharony Green. I have been a writer for many years. My career began in journalism at The Miami Herald, a newspaper in Miami, Florida, my hometown.
I continued working for other newspapers and media companies before returning to graduate school. I am now an Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama.
Four years ago, I celebrated the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book, Cuttin’ the Rug Under the Moonlit Sky: Stories and Drawings About a Bunch of Women Named Mae (Doubleday, 1997). Since then I have been published several more times. My latest book is about Zora Neale Hurston’s 1947-48 visit to Honduras. It has been eye-opening learning about this understudied and challenging period of her life.
I recently wrote an essay for a collection addressing how women travelers of African descent identify on the basis of race, but also where they are from or where they have been. That essay was prompted by a trip to Iceland. You can download it here.
But back to the Cuttin the Rug, my first book, I had no idea that what started out as words in my journal would become a book that would get mentioned or reviewed in publications like Essence, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek, among others.
These days, I mainly write scholarly works, but I have never forgotten the earlier works I wrote for general audiences. I’d like to reach larger audiences again. I sense many people want to hear more accessible ways of speaking. It is a timely desire. I want to be part of that conversation. A lot of my work addresses these complex times in which we are living.
Along the way, I have met people who have asked me for direction on how to get published because they have something they want to share, too. Sometimes such people want me to read their work. Time won’t permit the latter, but I will share a few thoughts (one person that I know listened to these thoughts. The result was a published book with Simon & Schuster).
1. Please do not write solely to be published. Write because you have something you want to say, or something your characters want to say, if you’re writing fiction.
2. Read Poets & Writers and other periodicals that address the needs of writers. Sometimes a published piece begins as an essay. Find calls for writings and submit. There are lots of listings in P & W that might prove helpful. Also try Submittable. I learned about PEN America’s Jean Stein Grant for Literary Oral History there and am pleased to say I was awarded that grant last year for my oral histories on the “Baa Haas,” a little-known African American neighborhood in greater Miami where I grew up. Denver Quarterly recently published a portion of a choreopoem that I wrote and directed 15 years ago on their website. I learned about this opportunity to share via Submittable, too. Finally, an installation that I mounted during the early days of the pandemic appeared in About Places Journal. I learned about this publishing opportunity via Submittable as well. The operative word here: submit!
3. Don’t be afraid to self-publish. My first book started out as a handmade book that I gave my friends and family. If you decide to go with the publisher, you might look for an agent. Be sure it’s someone who really hears you. Poets & Writers is a good place for this. I found my first literary agent here. I also highly recommend Beavers Pond Press if you have the funds to publish your own book with a publisher that will assemble marketing, graphic design and other folks around you to help your effort. Lily, the owner, is amazingly progressive, thorough and ready to help.
4. There are many places for more advice, but I can’t think of a more generous website than Terry McMillian’s. Read her advice carefully. Listen to her, too.
5. There are unique experiences you may face. I contributed an essay to an edited collection by Jewel Parker Rhodes filled with advice for black women writers.
6. Writers write. Writers also make time to write. Learn your process. I especially studied Maya Angelou‘s. Find a writing class or writing group filled with people you trust who can offer feedback.
7. Want to write a screenplay or a television script? There are all sorts of resources out there and even labs in which to participate. One of the best sites to learn about such things is Felecia Pride’s The Create Daily.
8. Again, I am unable at the present time to read manuscripts or give feedback beyond what I have shared. Stay positive. Words have power. Indeed, one of my dearest sorority sisters recently told me to “speak what you seek.” I now share that advice with you. I’ll be remembering it, too.